By near-universal account of those who condemn terrorism, the killing of jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki was a good thing. This was a man believed to be behind the attempted Christmas Day, 2009 bombing of a U.S. aircraft over American soil. It was a man U.S. officials say was trying to blow up American cargo planes by putting explosives into the packages on the planes, a man believed to have been hatching plans to poison fellow Americans.
Al-Awlaki was killed last week in Yemen in a drone strike, not only ridding the world of a dangerous terrorist, but depriving al-Qaeda of a powerful recruiter.
And Dick Cheney wants President Obama to apologize for it.
The irrepressible former vice president sees the killing as justified, to be sure. He's just mad because he thinks Obama is hypocritical for criticizing what the Bush administration, in almost comically euphemistic terms, described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on imprisoned al Qaeda suspects. As Cheney told CNN's State of the Union:
They've agreed they need to be tough and aggressive in defending the nation and using some of the same techniques that the Bush administration did. And they need, as I say, to go back and reconsider some of the criticisms they offered about our policies.
The self-centeredness of the comment is astonishing. A key al-Qaeda subject is killed, and Cheney is thinking about what it means for the reputation of the previous administration? If we're demanding apologies here, why not demand apologies from the people who are screaming about the budget deficit now after voting for laws and wars that vastly increased the budget deficit? And the al-Awlaki killing doesn't have anything to do with waterboarding. We don't know whether al-Awlaki was found because of "enhanced interrogation techniques." There are surely legitimate questions to be asked about whether and why a U.S. citizen should be targeted, either on U.S. soil or abroad. But hypocrisy isn't the issue here.
Former President Bush has been gracious and quiet as his successor takes on the problems of the economy and national security. If Bush has disagreed with what Obama has done, he's kept it to himself—something that is not only just good manners for a former president, but in the specific arena of national security, important to giving a sense of continuity in front of the international audience. How unfortunate that Cheney cannot behave in the same way.